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Official Review by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Everything old is new again for the San Antonio Rampage and their home arena, the venerable AT&T Center. San Antonio has a long history and love affair with minor league hockey. The Rampage have quite the pedigree behind them, as they are owned by Spurs Sports Entertainment and play in the same building as the five-time NBA champion Spurs and their “sister” franchise, the WNBA's Stars. They are also the farm team for the NHL's Colorado Avalanche.
The AT&T Center underwent a $100-plus million renovation that began in the fall of 2015. The renovations were completed just in time for the current AHL season and in time for the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. This massive event displaces both the Rampage and Spurs for virtually the entire month of February each year and forces both teams to go on extended road trips. The upgrades to the stadium are seen immediately and truly enhance the game-watching experience.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food and drinks are always important components of every game. The AT&T Center has undergone numerous changes in this area both before and after its renovations. You can find plenty of stands and kiosks scattered throughout the arena that serve the traditional standbys of peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs, and sodas (a regular sized hot dog will set you back $5.99 without chili or cheese and the jumbo variety will push closer to $6.99). You can also find perennial favorites such as nachos and Frito pie (brought to you courtesy of Rico's Cheese and Nachos, venue sponsors) and frozen margaritas.
There is a Pizza Hut stnad (offering personal pan choices). Close to the southeast entrance, you can also find the pride of the great Lone Star State, Whataburger, selling a pared down menu of delicious, can't be beat Whataburgers and French fries. If you are figuring the food quality per price ratio, this really is one of your best options. Mexican/Tex-Mex is well represented with a new street tacos stand offering beef and chicken tacos.
Another popular option is The Original Rudy's "Country Store" & Bar-B-Q located on the plaza level. Nothing says South Texas more than bar-b-q and Rudy's is an area favorite. Offering brisket and sausage plates as well as their world-famous creamed corn, you can expect long lines at this stop.
The AT&T Center's newest dining option is the Rock & Brews joint owned by KISS frontman Paul Stanley. This traditional brewpub offers a wide range of beers and ciders as well as tricked out bar food favorites such as Rockin' Nachos, Garlic and Cheese Fries, and wings and burgers. This is a little pricier option (the Garlic and Cheese Fries cost $8.99), but the atmosphere is great and it opens right onto the pavilion on some game nights.
Friday night Rampage games are also $1 nights in which most of the traditional offerings (hot dogs, soda, popcorn, and domestic beers) all can be purchased for a buck. This is really a great deal, especially for families on a budget. Large souvenir cups and large buckets of popcorn are also "bottomless."
The atmosphere is really one of the most improved aspects of the renovated AT&T Center. Gone are the dower and drab trappings that have been traditionally associated with the arena. A great deal of effort was put into adding new art installations throughout the arena. The club level has a section of art celebrating the San Antonio Spurs and their championship teams.
The new jumbotron also greatly impacts the viewing experience, especially if you are up in the upper decks of the building. The new screen offers four times the viewing space as the old one and truly doesn't deter from what is happening down on the ice.
The Rampage's mascot, T-Bone, truly is one of the best and a highlight of the game experience (especially for younger fans). He interacts with the crowd throughout the game and can often be seen pounding on the glass cheering on the home team. T-Bone has always been amiable to a quick photo with eager fans too.
This is an area in which I am torn. I am a lifelong San Antonian and I truly love my city. It has a lot to offer, but the area of town in which the AT&T Center was constructed really isn't the best. It was built in an industrial area (as evident by the adjacent Coca-Cola bottling plant) and there is a distinct lack of any nearby attractions or amenities.
The one saving grace is that the arena is a short drive from downtown San Antonio, the Riverwalk, the Alamo, the restaurants-pretty much everything that makes San Antonio great. So, again, while the immediate area is not great, it gets much better.
San Antonio has a long love affair with minor league hockey. There are scores of devoted Rampage fans at every single home game, many sporting custom or limited-edition Rampage hockey sweaters.
On a typical night, you'll have one to two dozen rabid fans ringing cowbells after every hard check, every laser-like pass, every snag-the-puck-out-of-the-air glove save. They pound the glass in the front rows and bust moves for the Dance Cam in the cheap seats. The fans feed off of the team's play and vice versa.
The AT&T Center is located next to two pretty easy ingresses/egresses. Houston Street is one of central San Antonio's main thoroughfares. It runs parallel to the AT&T Center and goes directly into the heart of downtown.
Interstates 10 and 35 are also within striking distance. On Spurs game nights, the traffic quite frankly is horrendous. The two exits are really a hindrance. However, on Rampage nights, the traffic is a breeze.
In terms of "bang for your buck," there are few options that can beat a good game at AT&T Center. Balcony seats can be had for as little as $6 at the box office and parking in the arena lot will only set you back $5. If you come on dollar night, you can really "clean up." Plus, there doesn't seem to be anything like minor league hockey. It's obviously not on par with the NHL, but you really feel the love of the game and see the passion that the players have. Their drive to get to that next level comes through on most every series.
As the Spurs are the main tenants of the building, most of the extras that you see belong to them. You can see the five Larry O'Brien trophies in one of the concourse lobbies. The artwork throughout the arena really adds a visual "pop" to the surroundings. And as for fan shops, the main team shop in the southeast corner of the stadium has everything you need.
You definitely can't beat a Rampage game at the AT&T Center. If you are in San Antonio with an evening to spare, make it a point to catch a game. You will not be disappointed.
Member Review by pwdonaldson on Apr 27, 2013
Though on first thought San Antonio likely doesn’t seem like it would be a great hockey town, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the overall gameday atmosphere. With only one major professional sports team in town (San Antonio Spurs), the Rampage give the AHL a big piece of a major city’s fanbase. Attendance is usually around the top 5 in the AHL and fans are loud throughout the entire game. The AT&T Center has a wealth of concession options which makes for a big plus on the in-game environment. The only real negative throughout the experience are the unsightly large black curtains which hang from the rafters and cover both empty seating areas and a lower level seating area which has to be rolled back to allow the rink to fit on the AT&T Center floor. Overall, however, the experience will be exciting and worth the trip.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Dec 06, 2013
The San Antonio Rampage began play in 2002, the same year the AT&T Center opened. The franchise, which had been dormant for 3 seasons as the Adirondack Red Wings, was purchased by the Spurs to be a secondary tenant in the new arena. First dubbed the SBC Center, it was renamed when Southwestern Bell bought AT&T, the venue hosts the Rampage, their big brother Spurs, the Silver Stars of the WNBA, and the annual rodeo in February. With the NBA team taking three championships since the building opened, it is no wonder the Rampage are somewhat overlooked, but that doesn’t mean a stadium traveler should do so as well. There are a number of reasons to attend a hockey game after visiting the Alamo.
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